TALES OF THE SAN JOAQUIN
Pilfering Cowboy Dies to Give Name for Early Mining Camp
From one end of the Mother Lode to the other the rollicking '49ers left
the brand of their humor on the hillsides, the bars, gulches and
ravines where they dug their gold.
They named their camps as the mood struck them, for the manner of
discovery, the homes they once had known, the fleas which plagued them
by day or the bedbugs which made the nights miserable. SOmetimes,
just to be contrary, they would give the name of Drytown to a diggins
with 30 saloons, or Piety Hill to a settlement which never had known a
pious miner. Usually, however, the boys of '49 called 'en as they
saw 'em., as in the case of Murderer's Bar, Liars' Flat, Drunken Gulch
COLLECTION OF TENTS
Now Bootjack, a few miles east and a little to the south of Mariposa
was just a collection of tents, brush shacks and log huts when Texas
Pete Conners showed up not long after the first gold was found.
The County of Mariposa was not yet organized, the town of that name was
called Logtown, and Agua Fria and Mormon Bar were the big camps.
Pete had ridden the Texas ranges for several years and still was in the
saddle when he departed from the Lone Star State just ahead of an
inquisitive sheriff. Two days after he reached the
sanctuary of the Mariposa country he lost his horse in a poker game and
was afoot for the first time in his adult life. Knowing he was
broke, the boys began to wonder, inasmuch as pete showed no inclination
to stake and work a claim, where he got the god dust to pay for his
pork and beans in John Hammer's store and whisky he drank in Tim
Regan's canvas saloon.
SURPRISED BY MINER
They found out when a prospector surprised him in a tent where he
didn't belong and Pete headed for the high mountains in a hurry. Now,
Pete was no hand at walking, much less running. His fancy high
heeled boots had been made for saddle stirrups and not for footraces
with irate miners. The boys caught up with him two miles later
sitting on a rock nursing his bruised and blistered feet.
They took him back to camp, called court, tried and convicted him with
dispatch and escorted him, limping, to a tree. Pete made the usual
farewell speech and asked them not to hang him with his boots on.
That was a reasonable enough request. Futhermore they were neat
and expensive boots and more than one miner was wondering whether they
would fit him.
PULLS, TUGS, FAILS
Pete pulled and tugged, but his feet were so swollen he couldn't get
them off. Some of the boys lent a hand, but nothing happened. For
awhile it looked like an impasse. A promise was a promise, which
meant Pete had to be either a barefoot corpse or none. And it
would never do to ruin the boots by cutting them off.
Then the camp handyman, whose name unfortunately has been lost to
history, stepped up with a contraption he had hurriedly put together.
It was a think plank, raised and notched deeply on one end.
He motioned for Pete to put one heel in the notch. Pete did
so. He pulled, a couple of the boys yanked, and off came the
boot. The other followed quickly.
Pete didn't hang with his boots on, but the result was the same.
The curious miners looked the boot remover over carefully and asked
what it was. "Why, you dern fools, that is a boojack," they were
And that according to the story which still is told , is how the camp
in the Mariposa pines was named.
Joe White published many articles or "tales" of the Sierra and
San Joaquin- but somewhere in each "tale" is an element of truth
MORE MARIPOSA COUNTY HISTORICAL ACCOUNTS